Trent Dilfer's assessment of most of the returning members of his football team has largely remained behind the walls of UAB's football operations center.
His assessment of defensive tackle Fish McWilliams, though, was shared prominently by Dilfer during an appearance on the McElroy and Cubelic radio show about a week ago.
"That dude's a monster," said Dilfer. "Now, he doesn't have NFL measurables. He's an outlier. Watch him punch, his fast hands, the offensive line is always late with their hands because he's jacked them up. His feet, his eye work, he's shedding, he's playing down the line of scrimmage. We're like, we've got an All-American on the roster. This guy is a dude."
UAB interim head coach Bryant Vincent, who will coach his final game at UAB in Friday's Bahamas Bowl against Miami of Ohio, smiled when asked if he had heard what Dilfer said.
"I think it tells you everything you need to know about Fish," Vincent said. "It doesn't take long to turn the film on for him to stick out. He's been out here for a couple of years, and, I think, he's had the best year he's had this year. I think it just goes back to his work ethic and his mentality of how he's changed his body during the offseason, so he can come out and have the year he's had."
McWilliams had 31 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, four quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery this season.
"My development, it's a matter of working from January, all the way up until the season started, just knowing that this d-line would step up," said McWilliams, who is a fall graduate. "We had some questions before the season started. We just came out, and all had a great season."
McWilliams quickly deflects the personal praise, mentioning the job that linemates like Isaiah Forte, Michael Fairbanks and Drew Tuazama did during the games. He even said defensive linemen whose primary role was more to serve on the scout team than contribute on Saturday.
Vincent said that is one thing that makes McWilliams a team leader.
"It means everything to us when you have a player of his type of caliber that is the type of player he is and the leader he is," Vincent said. "He's very humble and very grateful. He's loved by this team, and rightfully so, for being the man and the player he is every day."
McWilliams and his 60 more minutes on the game clock in the 2022 season will be critical before moving on to the next chapter. For McWilliams, that means returning for another year at UAB and his first season under Dilfer and the new staff. Don't expect McWilliams to let Dilfer's assessment go to his head.
"I would say it's great to hear," McWilliams said. "It really doesn't give me any extra confidence. I have to come out here and play football. I have to prove myself each and every day that I have the ability to make the plays that Coach Dilfer saw while watching film. I appreciate the love, but I just know my head is on, and I'm steady working. I still got way more work to do and ways to get better."
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